In the reading from 2 Samuel, David laments for lost lives of those he loved. In his mourning, he speaks of his love for Jonathan –“greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (v. 26). In addition to suggesting a romantic love with Jonathan, David’s words also speak to the violence and pain inflicted by Saul and Jonathan’s death. Even David, a great king and warrior, laments – experiencing the human toll of individuals attacking each other. In the only emotion he ascribes to himself, David calls himself “distressed.”
The reading from the psalm models a prayer coming from deeply felt emotions. The psalmist writes, “out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord” (v.1). Notably, the psalmist directs their deep emotions – their “cry” – to God. As the psalm continues, the psalmist addresses God with such depth aware of the goodness of God. The psalmist writes, “there is forgiveness with you” (v.4), “with the Lord there is steadfast love” (v.7), and “I hope in the Lord” (v.7). The psalmist calls Israel, as well as the reader, to “hope in the Lord.”
In the reading from Mark’s gospel, after Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee, a crowd of people gathers around him. Jarius, one of the leaders of the synagogue, meets Jesus amidst the crowd and begs him to come lay his hands on his daughter who is ill. As Jesus makes his way through crowds of people with Jarius, a woman who had been suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind Jesus and touched his cloak. She was immediately healed, and Jesus immediately was “aware that power had gone forth from him” (v. 30). After asking the crowd who touched his clothes, the woman came forth “in fear and trembling” (v. 32). Jesus assures her that her faith has healed her. As Jesus is speaking, people come to tell Jarius that his daughter has died, and they ask him “Why trouble the teacher any further?” (v. 35). Overhearing this, Jesus says to Jarius, “Do no fear, only believe,” insisting on going to his home. When he arrives, Jesus sees commotion, weeping, and wailing, and he asks “why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” Those gather laugh at Jesus’ words, but he tells the child, “little girl, get up!” (v. 41). She gets up and walks about, amazing those gathered.
Liturgically, the reading from 2 Samuel and the psalm are placed alongside each other. One text speaks to the violent loss of life and the mourning and pain it causes those who love them. The other passage cries out to God in prayer, speaking of God’s the steadfast love, forgiveness, worth. This passage reveals the attentiveness, generosity, and love of God, inviting us to hope in God amidst our needs. Together, these passages engage in a kind of theological conversation: the one speaking to the depths of the pain and sorrow we experience in the face of violence, injustice, and tragedy and the other directing that pain and sorrow to a God who is worthy of hope.
In the Gospel passage, we see an analogous movement. Both the woman in the crowd and the parents with an ailing daughter direct their pain and their mourning to Jesus. In response, Jesus heals the woman and raises the dead child. In Jesus, we see the embodiment of the God the psalmist describes. But, Jesus is both God and human. And so, we see in Jesus a model for how we should live as humans as well – healing those beset with suffering and being present to those struck with death, restoring them to life.
Like David, we too experience the tragic toll of human violence; we too have things about which to lament. At times, thanks to the media and on the news, we feel bombarded with stories of human beings inflicting violence on each other. At times, we, like David, become distressed by pain and violence inflicted on others. We lament. And, we do so in ways that hold the humanity of those for whom we lament. Today, we open ourselves to lamentation. We connect with the humanity of those persecuted and discriminated in African countries for their sexual or gender identity. We are “distressed” by the violence and persecution they face.
The psalmist invites us to direct our deeply felt emotions to God – including lamentation, distress, and pain. We are reminded that God can be trusted with our pain and that God is worthy of hope. God can be trusted with the distress, the pain, and the lamentation we feel about the violence and persecution faced by African LGBTQ persons. God can also be trusted with the helplessness, the confusion, and the conflict we feel about creating a better world for LGBTQ people globally.
In the Gospel story of Jesus taking on the pain and ailments of those around him, Jesus shows us what it means for God to accept our pain, heal our ailments, and restore us to life. But, Jesus’ example does not merely show us the ways of God. It also teaches us how to be human. Jesus invites us to be among the suffering and those facing death-dealing realities. Jesus invites us not only to awareness or prayer, but also to action. Such is also the case with the violent and painful experiences of many LGBTQ persons in African countries. In addition to the lamentation of David, and the deeply felt prayer of the psalmist, Jesus challenges us to move into action that seeks to relieve suffering and restore life.